Myths and Truths of Obesity and Pregnancy

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Ironically, despite excessive caloric intake, many obese women are deficient in vitamins vital to a healthy pregnancy ...

... Many obese women are vitamin deficient ...

Forty percent are deficient in iron, 24 percent in folic acid and 4 percent in B12. This is a concern because certain vitamins, like folic acid, are very important before conception, lowering the risk of cardiac problems and spinal defects in newborns. Other vitamins, such as calcium and iron, are needed throughout pregnancy to help babies grow.

... vitamin deficiency has to do with the quality of the diet, not the quantity. Obese women tend to stray away from fortified cereals, fruits and vegetables, and eat more processed foods that are high in calories but low in nutritional value.

"Just like everybody else, women considering pregnancy or currently pregnant should get a healthy mix of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and good quality carbohydrates. Unfortunately, these are not the foods people lean towards when they overeat," noted Thornburg. "Women also need to be sure they are taking vitamins containing folic acid before and during pregnancy."

... In 2009, the Institute of Medicine revised its recommendations for gestational weight gain for obese women from "at least 15 pounds" to "11-20 pounds." According to past research, obese women with excessive weight gain during pregnancy have a very high risk of complications, including indicated preterm birth, cesarean delivery, failed labor induction, large-for-gestational-age infants and infants with low blood sugar.

If a woman starts her pregnancy overweight or obese, not gaining a lot of weight can actually improve the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy ...

... Obese women have increased rates of respiratory complications, and up to 30 percent experience an exacerbation of their asthma during pregnancy, a risk almost one-and-a-half times more than non-obese women.

... Breastfeeding rates are poor among obese women, with only 80 percent initiating and less than 50 percent continuing beyond six months, even though it is associated with less postpartum weight retention and should be encouraged as it benefits the health of mom and baby.

... it can be challenging for obese women to breast feed. It often takes longer for their milk to come in and they can have lower production ...

Preconception care and a healthy eating and exercise program before pregnancy, that is maintained during pregnancy, can be helpful.

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